Drifting is intentionally hard on a car. You’ll be tearing down, a hundred miles an hour, pull the handbrake, your wheel speed drops to zero, then bam, back to a hundred, clutch kick, zero to a hundred again in a fraction of a second. To survive a pro drift run is to have tough as hell components, and little is tougher than a four-speed NASCAR dog box. Here’s how it works.
This teardown comes courtesy of the inimitable Stephen Papadakis. You may remember him from our story on the real LA street racing scene that predated The Fast and the Furious.
Papadakis was the first one to break into the nines with a front-drive car, and when import drag racing started to fall off, he transitioned to drifting. This is all to say that Papadakis knows his shit.
So it’s charming to see him take this four-speed transmission apart. It’s the kind of transmission used in NASCAR, in this case manufactured by a company called G-Force. I find it endlessly endearing that Papadakis’ Toyota drift team, this so import-branded sport, uses a transmission from a company based out of Cleona, PA.
Papadakis points out that this is an evolution of a side-shifter design, which really lets you see that this transmission is like an evolution of the old Muncie four-speed, Muncie of “Rock Crusher” fame, the ultra-heavy duty trans from the heyday of the Corvette back in the 1960s. I looked this up on “Muncie Four-Speed: The Complete History” and the four-speed actually goes back to a design from the late 1950s, which is based off of a three-speed BorgWarner design from the late 1930s.
So keep that in mind when you see the guts of this G-Force: It is simple as all hell.
It is amazingly easy to see how everything lines up and selects, with uncomplicated straight-cut gears and dog rings handling the engagement. The straight cut gears give the transmission its whine (like being in reverse in your normal car) and the chunky dog rings give it its clang thunk into gear. These are not components that produce astounding smoothness or refinement. They are as simple and as strong as possible.
And that’s what makes these transmissions still so relevant today. I think they’re absolutely fascinating.